Christina Janiga Psychotherapy - Blog
This blog is not a substitute for therapy, but provides evidence-based education for the purposes of self-help and information
How To Get The Right Support For Your Grief Or Loss
The term “Grief” is a description of all of the feelings surrounding a personal loss. If you have recently experienced a deep loss, know that your grief may ebb and flow throughout your life for a long time after your original loss. Grief is a deeply personal expression, and it’s one that comes not just with the death of a loved one, but also with moments of saying goodbye to something, or someone forever. However you are experiencing grief, know that your journey is valid, and uniquely your own, and you do not have to walk this path alone. Therapy for grief and loss can help you to understand your process more clearly, it won’t take the pain away, but it may make it more tolerable.
The Grief From Losing A Loved One
Grieving the loss of a loved one is a feeling that can begin with a sense of detachment, or you may be enveloped with the emotions that you’ve ever felt at once. Often miscarriages bring a deeply personal form of grief that can be quite isolating, as for so long people did not share when they experienced this loss. Situations that can complicate the grieving process are not getting to say goodbye properly, not being able to attend the funeral, or if you had argued the last time you spoke with the now departed. Even with these challenges, you can still move through the grieving process, and your feelings will evolve. Memories may trigger feelings of love, and sadness will be more manageable. Talking about your loss will be less painful.
Non-Death Related Loss and Grief
While death is the most obvious form of grief, it’s important to recognize the other reasons you may be feeling a deep sense of loss.
Moving and leaving memories, friends, and your familiar hometown can be deeply difficult for some, especially young people. Retiring or being unexpectedly fired from a job that you love can bring up feelings of grief, to lose this way of life that you’ve had for so long.
Permanent physical changes, such as menopause, infertility, or the loss of a body part (which can happen due to diabetes or for cancer treatment) often brings up a need to mourn this part of yourself, or the hopes of having a child. With all forms of grief and loss, speaking up about this pain with an understanding listener is a good step towards healing.
Where Does Grief Start? How Does It End?
Grief is different for everyone. It may have patterns, but it doesn’t have an automatic beginning or end. When you experience a loss, your emotions may come in waves with everything from anger, sadness, numbness, relief, or love. Grief can also begin before the death of your loved one.
“Anticipatory grief” is when you know that death is imminent for your loved one and you begin to mentally prepare. You may feel like you’re living in two worlds; the here and now, and also the moment after death arrives.
Unconsciously, your mind might be preparing to deal with this all. Physically this can show up in a sensation of heaviness in your body, or erratic anxious breathing, and changes in sleep (either over or undersleeping). This stage of grief is often very private, and something you might not speak about to anyone.
If you know someone who is anticipating the death of a loved one, you can provide comfort just staying in touch, offering to go for a walk with them, and giving them the space to talk, or simply to be quiet but present with them.
The Five Stages Of Grief
The five stages of grief were introduced to the world in the 1969 book On Death and Dying by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. In order to provide a way for people to help frame and identify what they may be feeling during grief, this model was developed. The stages have been changed and adapted since their first introduction, and it’s important to note that this framework for grief was not intended to make the experience of grief just a simple series of steps.
The five stages are a collection of responses to loss that people often have, but your grief is as individual as your life, and so the stages of grief that you go through may be somewhat different than what’s described.
The five stages of grief are:
You may not follow the five stages in order, in fact you might not even experience all of the stages (and this does not mean you aren’t grieving Denial is often the first experience, but denial doesn’t mean that you’re denying that someone has passed away, or that the loss hasn’t happened. It can show up as just…feeling fine, if a bit out of touch with your emotions. Your mind does this to help you from being too overwhelmed to function. Your next step into grief might be anger, or it could just as easily be bargaining.
Returning To Your Routine After a Loss
Your life circumstances may be such that you have to work, or go back to your daily routine very soon after a loss. You know what can and cannot be dropped in your life, if that means returning to day to day life, then you’ll have to, but that doesn’t mean you can just skip grieving. Grief will be waiting for you when you do have time, those feelings will not go away if they are not processed.
How do you live with grief? Be kind to yourself, and triage your daily duties.
Delegate what you can to co-workers, and give yourself extra time for items that require your focus and attention. With your home life, if a friend or family member offers to help, ask them to skip the flowers and send for ready-made food or gift cards to order in instead. If you are a single parent or live alone, consider what your actual necessities are chore-wise (laundry, food, taking out trash, preventing slipping hazards) and let the rest slide until you can face it (the dusting can wait, same with the paint touch ups).
Ways To Process Your Grief
There is no “right “ way to grieve, and your feelings are your own. The important thing is to simply feel your emotions, instead of pushing them all down. Make the time to think about your loss, to feel it in your body, in a way that isn’t overwhelming. If you’ve found peace before in journaling, that can be helpful. You could also write a letter to the person who passed.
If being physical helps, try walking alone in a place that your loved one would have enjoyed, or think about the loss you’ve experienced during these quiet walks. Other ways can be to listen to music to remind you of the person, place or pet that you’ve lost. Talking with friends, coworkers or relatives who understand this loss can help as well.
Counselling For Grief
If you are beginning to feel depressed, or if the people in your life cannot accept your grieving process, finding a counsellor or attending a loss support group is a way to help with your grief. There are many online resources and grief support groups for people experiencing loss similar to your own. Grief takes as long as it needs to and you will be able to eventually think about your loss without as much pain and sadness. If you’re struggling, please reach out, you deserve support.
Christina Janiga and associated employees of Christina Janiga Psychotherapy offer virtual psychotherapy and couselling sessions through secure, Canada-based software called OnCall Health and JaneVideo. OnCall Health and JaneVideo are secure and encrypted online video platforms that meet all of Canada’s privacy requirements and laws.
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